Provost Gayle Davis starts final year at GVSU

Jess Hodge

Since 2002, Gayle Davis has watched Grand Valley State University’s population steadily increase from 20,000 to 25,000 students. As the provost and executive vice president of academic and student affairs, Davis has played a vital role in helping GVSU turn from a medium school into one of Michigan’s most prominent universities. The 2016-17 school year will mark Davis’ 15th and final year at GVSU.

Even though Davis is sad to leave, she knows GVSU will continue to grow as it first did when she arrived. Although she will not be involved in the search for her successor, Davis helped pick out the search team and is confident in the team’s abilities. The search team consists of about a dozen people, who have already begun meeting.

Davis believes one of the most important qualities to look for in possible candidates is their ability to maintain the culture at GVSU.

“When I say the culture I mean the culture we have with shared governance being so closely tied to this office and my own commitment to shared governance. I think it all works really well right now,” she explained. “The other is the student culture. I feel like we have done our best to empower students to have different leadership roles and different opportunities to really round out whatever their major is and I hope we don’t ever lose that.”

Unlike other schools, Davis said, GVSU has a different way of looking at things when it comes to students.

“We are pretty unusual,” she said. “If we are in a knot trying to figure out something in senate, and it has to do with some policy related to the curriculum or other student-orientated things, all I really have to say is ‘so what would be best for our students?’”

With one year left, Davis is looking to wrap up as many projects as possible. She also wants to give the new provost ample instruction for their years.

“Getting the division in place for the next provost so that if there are loose ends I can tie up within a year then that is on the list,” she explained. “I’ve been writing a log of our activities, when we did what, where the senate is on this and that, there is such history to so many of the bigger decisions that we make in my office.”

As someone who has been here for nearly 15 years, Davis has made multiple changes to academic and student affairs at GVSU. When she first got here, Davis recalls GVSU being in the transitional period of a small school to becoming a medium, more complex university. As with any growing institution, there were changes that needed to be made to accommodate the growing campus.

“The reorganization came first, (then) we did a lot of work on general education, a lot of work on faculty workload being fairer across the university, those things that took it from a whole bunch of divisional clusters in academics and made it a university,” Davis explained. “I have felt that I came here and trying to mature the policies and get us more in the mindset of opportunities as well as obligations to students when we offer this huge array of opportunities to them. It was the next stage of Grand Valley’s growth that we needed to do.”

In a statement released after the announcement of Davis’ retirement, GVSU President Thomas Haas said Davis has “left an indelible mark on Grand Valley and Michigan,” and she has made the GVSU community a “better place to work and live.”

“I’ve loved this place (like) it’s home,” Davis said of her retirement. “It was a very hard decision for me to make.”